A Holier than thou experience: The Cape Town Festival of Colour

The Nomadic Existence team went on a crusade to the We are One festival of colour in Cape Town with one goal in mind: to have a life changing experience.

It had all started a few weeks ago when Nomadic Bug (my photographer) had told me about Holi one. “Holi one?” I curiously asked, “What’s that?” “Well”, she said excitedly – a modality I know entirely too well when she was about to throw a game changer, “it’s a festival where people get together, party and…”, “And?” I asked sternly as my patience was growing thin, “throw paint at each other!” “Throw paint at each other?” I said aloud even though by now I was rather fascinated. “Why?” I had to investigate, “Because it’s fun and it’s all about celebrating universal unity while throwing copious amounts of colour…” “Stop, Hold on”, I interrupted as I tried to make sense of it. “What you’re articulating is that a lot of people start out together, jump around to music and then throw paint all over each other in order to celebrate unity?” “That’s correct, isn’t it awesome and you know what?” she sneered, knowing all too well I knew the solution already. “It’s coming to Cape Town and I’ve managed to get us some tickets! Great, I sarcastically thought to myself as I reminisced over all the other life changing excursions we had done together. Jumping off bridges, river rafting down the Zambezi, getting lost in the middle of the desert, to me those were game changers, not paint throwing? Hopefully I could be wrong.

Holi GirlA couple of weeks later saw us stepping out of the Perseverance Tavern on Buitenkant Street – our local just before any “life changing experience” – and still I was feeling rather skeptical.  Especially after getting a bit tanked as I stood there all clad in white and unsure as to whether I wanted to dive head first into the unknown. But as fate would have it, I had nothing to revere as my confidence was bolstered upon seeing droves of similarly dressed punters passing us by. For the meantime anyway.

Eventually we made it to the Grand Parade; an old square nestled in the shadow of the Edwardian style city hall and were left dumbstruck. The sight of all the powder paints being thrown simultaneously in the air against the backdrop of Table Mountain was in a word; breathtaking. This served to put me at ease as we relished in the moment to what must be one of the most beautiful locations in the world to host such an event.

As well as the multitude of participants who came from all walkways of life and could only be identified as a riot of color. But other than that it was a somber experience as it commenced to feel more and more like an inner city rave. My only reprieve materialized in the form of Nomadic Bug’s antics, which for what it’s worth, was having nothing of my cynical nature as she progressed to have a whale of a time. Bounding in and out of the fray, moving round like a crazed banshee as I looked on, savouring what little liquid was left in my paint caked beer.

The cock strikes twelveAs a result, I purchased a couple more beers and downed them in immediate succession in a final ditch attempt to hike up my waning confidence as I sought to disparage my cynicism. This tactic was soon strengthened as I asked an overly tall stilt walker as to which way the front of the stage was. To which he duly obliged and went on to point out with his erect cock. It was, to say the least an experience that left me a little shaken but had done little to slow down my growing confidence as I heading into the mass of bodies. It was quite a while later due to all the jostling and squeezing I had to endure as I stepped on and inadvertently introduced myself to hundreds of strangers before I finally made it to the front. There I waited for the final countdown.

But just minutes before it was launched Nomadic Bug pounced on me from behind and tore open an attractive orange subsequently dousing me in its gritty embrace. It was in a nutshell a liberating experience. But before I could reciprocate the entire swath of bodies, let loose all their paints and rendered the air thick with the smell of powder and the sound of laughter.

In the end, as I stood there covered from head to toe in paint, grabbing in the mess for a swig of beer to ease my parched throat I had finally come upon a noteworthy conclusion. Although it might not be for everyone and is fraught with all the trappings of modern distractions, it is a hell of a good deal of fun. Even for an old cynic such as myself and might be what some may conceive a “life changing experience”.

Quick Facts:

  • Originally from India, it is celebrated by the Hindu people to welcome the arrival of spring and in their faith when good triumphs over evil.
  • It’s generally celebrated during the vernal equinoctial point (Full Moon) with the date varying slightly from year to year as per the Hindu calendar.
  • It has now spread all throughout the world focusing its message on the ethos of “We are one” in love and colour.
  • All participants are required to wear only white and to buy paints sanctioned by the organizers before or at the festival.
  •  The Cape Town leg of Holi 1 took place on the 21st of March, a day known as Human Rights Day in response to the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960.

For more of Nomadic Bugs photos go to the Cape Town Festival of Colour 2014.

For more info, visit their site Holione.com or for more in depth purposes visit the Wikipedia entry.

By Slippery Joe Lyzard © (Writer for Nomadic Existence)

Photography: Nomadic Bug © 

Nomadic Existence 2015 ©

 Explore. Conserve. Discover.


One Comment on “A Holier than thou experience: The Cape Town Festival of Colour

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